|Phạm Tuấn Hải (right) celebrates scoring his third goal in the V-League this season. — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Quyết|
by Anh Đức
HÀ NỘI — In a fully packed Hàng Đẫy Stadium in central Hà Nội, more than 12,000 spectators witnessed the best Vietnamese football has to offer as hosts Hà Nội FC beat Hoàng Anh Gia Lai 2-1 on Sunday.
The "Super Sunday" clash happened between the two top teams of the V-League, with Hà Nội on top and HAGL four points behind in third place. Both teams have bounced back from their dismal start to the season with five wins.
The match featured many Việt Nam national team players, Hà Nội with six and HAGL with five. While Hà Nội had their best players on the starting line-up, HAGL were without the talismanic Nguyễn Công Phượng, who has COVID.
The two teams started the match slowly, with both defences staying strong to deny their opponents. Only one shot was made in the first half, although the play on the field suggested a more exciting affair.
The only notable incident in the first half was HAGL's controversial call for a penalty in the 32nd minute when Bruno Henrique's heel was clipped inside Hà Nội's penalty area, but the referee waived away the protests.
In the second half, both teams started to pick up the pace. In the 51st minute, Bruno was through on goal and had only keeper Bùi Tấn Trường to beat. The Brazillian hesitated, and Nguyễn Thành Chung was able to clear in the nick of time.
The miss came back to haunt Kiatisuk Senamuang's team just three minutes later. A long ball from defence reached Tonći Mujan on the left wing, and the in-form Croatian winger whipped in a delicious cross for captain Nguyễn Văn Quyết who tapped in the opening goal for the hosts.
A shellshocked HAGL saw the deficit doubled in the 56th minute. From an overlap in the left wing, Vladimir Silađi put Đoàn Văn Hậu through. The former SC Heerenveen player was clever enough to cross for Phạm Tuấn Hải at the far post, who scored like Quyết earlier.
Having gone 2-0 up, the supporters of Hà Nội sang "Chú Voi Con Ở Bản Đôn" (The Little Elephant of Đôn Village), a children's chant about a young highland elephant, aimed at the supporters of the Highland Team HAGL.
The singing lasted for five minutes until Bruno silenced them with a towering header after a corner to make it 2-1.
Hà Nội's manager Chun Jae-ho brought on defensive-minded Bùi Hoàng Việt Anh and Nguyễn Hai Long soon after to secure the one-goal lead, and HAGL failed to equalise in the final minutes.
Without attackers, Hà Nội also could not expand their lead, and the match ended 2-1 to the hosts.
With this win, Hà Nội officially top the league in the first half of the season, with a clear six-point lead over second-placed Sông Lam Nghệ An. HAGL's five-game winning streak was undone, and they remain in third place.
HAGL will return to Pleiku Stadium on August 19 to face dark horses Hải Phòng FC, while Hà Nội will take a flight to play at Becamex Bình Dương's Gò Đậu Stadium a day before. — VNS